GOLMAAL AGAIN. Director: Rohit Shetty. Players: Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Arshad Warsi, Parineeti Chopra, Shreyas Talpade, Tushar Kapoor, Kunal Khemu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Prakash Raj. Music: Amaal Maalik, S. Thaman, D.J. Chelas, Abhishek Arora. Hindi w/ Eng. sub-titles. Theatrical release (Reliance)

GOLMAAL AGAIN

GOLMAAL AGAIN

The Golmaal franchise—Golmaal Again is the fourth in a series— has paid off very handsomely for the Shetty-Devgn partnership going back more than a decade of successes that include the Golmaal series starting in 2006 and they also hit pay dirt with the Singham entries. The filmmaker and his male muse—astonishingly, this is their tenth movie together—have worked up a remarkable intertwined career graph.

While not in the same comedy league as the Rajkumar Hirani-Sanjay Dutt pairing in the two-entry Munnabhai movies, the occasional laugh-out-loud premise and unending silliness more than likely guarantee there will be more Golmaal headwinds in our future.

Part lost-orphan tale, part love-story, part action entry, part comedy and part ghost story, the Golmaal formula is a promise to be everything to everyone without saturating or completely satisfying any of the genres they touch on. A story of five friends who trace their roots to an orphanage in Ooty, along with the ringleader Gopal (Devgn), also has Madhav (Warsi), Lucky (Kapoor), Laxman 1 (Talpade) and Laxman 2 (Khemu). Separated in early childhood, they are reunited after finding themselves on opposites ends of the far reaches of unscrupulous land-developer Reddy (Raj). Drawn back to the orphanage by Anna Mathew (Tabu), the narrator-librarian who may be chummy with a house-broken ghost or two, the Famous Five must not only outwit the land-grabber but also solve a murder or two along the way.

Ooty in Tamil Nadu is a popular hill station and, given the lush greenery of the tea estates, provides an eye-catching backdrop prized by Indian filmmakers since time immemorial. The hilltop not only provides a middle-of-nowhere feel but it also sparks interest in that area during a heavily traveled season of family visits and holiday festivities. It makes the perfect setting for an out-of-the-way orphanage that everyone wants a piece of. This remote feel also feeds into the ghost story subtext. A solemn library atmosphere can certainly harbor ghosts that can, for their choice of weapons hurl books at troublemaker and non-believing patrons. A quiet library can be the house of boo indeed!

For slapstick to, well, stick, it has to be plausible. Even though this Golmaal has a huge budget—reportedly more than five times what Aamir Khan spent on his much smaller Secret Superstar—the ghostly moves, the choreography of the action stunts and even the song sequences are not commensurate with the mullah tossed in to pull all this together. This Golmaal lacks fluid motion and pokes fun at stutterers, folks who are deaf or mute and older men who like younger women. However, the audience that would thrive on neutral scripts, precise moves, precise action and precise ghost movements is decidedly not the audience the filmmakers are after.

A recurring note in this five-some bromance is Devgn’s Gopal repeatedly teased for showing interest in the mysterious, pretty and younger woman living at the orphanage (Chopra). Gopal’s buddies poke fun at the May-December romance Gopal hopes will bloom here. In a stark contrast to a host of leading male leads in Hindi cinema, most of who are or more than fifty and who almost exclusively romance 20 and 30-something female leads, Devgn’s Gopal allowing himself to show his age may be the most realistic contribution this franchise offers to the evolution of movie romance. Even though the age-difference digs are ends to another joke, Devgn could be that rare lead allowing himself to age gracefully onscreen. Noteworthy indeed!

The entire movie has the appearance of a regurgitation of the disconnected mass-mayhem that pretty much summed up the previous three Golmaal packages. It uses pretty much the same cast—with the notable exception of Kareena Kapoor being replaced by Chopra as the possible love interest. The acting is loud, the fights land one punch too many and the camera simply moves too much. Released at Diwali, however, this ill-defined jumble has caught enough of an audience in a festive, silly Halloween-inflected mood to light up the box office and allowed Golmaal Again to strike box-office gold.

EQ: B

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